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Grease: Live Cast Interview

January 28, 2016

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By: Lynn Barker

The fun musical “Grease” which you may have seen on TV or video as a movie starring a very young John Travolta and Olivia Newton John, will be presented this coming Sunday night live on the FOX TV network. By “live” we mean like a stage play with an audience in the studio. No “re-do’s” This puts some pressure on the young cast but they are ready for it. The TV show is a combo of the original stage musical and the movie. There are new songs written for some cast members.  

KeKe and Julianne rehearse Summer NightsKeKe and Julianne rehearse Summer NightsCourtesy of FOX

Check out what these actor/dancer/singers of "Grease: Live" had to say about the challenge. The cast and their characters are: Julianne Hough as Sandy, Broadway hunk Aaron Tviet as Danny, Vanessa Hudgens as Rizzo, Carly Rae Jepsen as Frenchy, Keke Palmer as Marty, Kether Donohue as Jan, Jordan Fisher as Doody and Carlos Pena Vega as Kenickie.

Aaron Tveit as DannyAaron Tveit as DannyCourtesy of FOX

Q: For Julianne and Aaron.  How have your past performances prepared you for this project, and what are the challenges of essentially making a live movie? 

  • Aaron:  I think it's something we've talked about a lot, just the different venues of live performance, whether it be on stage or Julianne doing "Dancing with the Stars" but, at the same time, doing television and film.  And this kind of combines all of that in a fun and exciting way for us, and we don't have to keep it separate like we usually do.
  • Julianne:  Yeah. I feel like when you are on stage performing, that live audience element helps so much.  I always say that we can be in rehearsal or on stage and give a hundred percent, but when there's an audience, there's this, like, reserve tank, this extra little umph and that's where magic happens, and that's why I think we are so excited that we have the live audience element. 
  • I'm excited for people to watch it at home, too, because that's how we are creating it.  It's for television.  So when people; our families, our friends, are introducing their kids for the first time to "Grease," they are going to feel really involved as well.  They are going to be singing along and dancing, I hope.

Julianne and Aaron as Sandy and DannyJulianne and Aaron as Sandy and DannyCourtesy of FOX

Q: Rizzo thinking she might be pregnant has been a point of debate among “Grease” fans. Are you including that?

  • Vanessa:  Rizzo still thinks she gets pregnant.  I think that's the thing that's so great about playing Rizzo.  Even though "Grease" does have this fun, lightheartedness about it, there's some real stuff that's going on.  And Rizzo does still have a pregnancy scare, and that's one thing that I think roots her into this darker attitude that she has.  So I feel like it's very important to Rizzo, and it's still there.

Vanessa as RizzoVanessa as RizzoCourtesy of FOX

Q: Any of you, what is it about television and maybe this production in particular that is making the musical format so popular right now? There have been a few musicals done live on TV lately.

  • Jordan: I love this question for a lot of reasons because I grew up doing theater and then kind of fell into TV and film.  And I think the beautiful thing that I love about television is that, as opposed to film, you can grow with and love characters that are in your home every week.  And I think the format of "Grease" allows people to feel immersed in the experience that we are having because we are essentially having a party. It’s like going to a concert where you can't fully replicate the experience, and that's why people go.
  •  
  • Keke: I remember when we first went to the Warner Bros. lot, the feeling that we all had is when we knew we were doing something that was truly innovative. (The producer and director) took everything that you like, everything that you love, and flipped it on its head.  All I can say is that there was hashtag historical‑type vibes. I could be one of the first African‑American people that are ever a part of this musical and I love that my little brother and sister get to watch this show, and they get to actually see the world that is around them.  They are going to get introduced to "Grease" in a way that their world looks today.

Greased Lightning burns up the quarter mileGreased Lightning burns up the quarter mileCourtesy of FOX

Q: Very cool! So why has it been decades since television has done live musicals?

  • Aaron: I don't know.  I think it's an exciting time that these live musical events have done so well.  There aren't a lot of programs that a whole family can sit down together and watch and enjoy.  Not everyone can see a Broadway show unless you live close to New York. It’s expensive to travel there, and then, once you get there, the prices are outrageous.  A lot of people have cable so you can sit down and get this theatrical experience with your family in your own house.

Julianne and Aaron rehearsalJulianne and Aaron rehearsalCourtesy of FOX

Q: Kether, we've seen you sing on "You're the Worst."  Did that function in any way as an unofficial audition for this, or was it a more traditional route to “Grease” for you?

  • Kether: It's funny because I never thought I could sing.  I feel like I'm frauding through a singing career. In my audition, I actually sang "Summer Nights" (from “Grease”).  I sang both the male and female roles and I forgot the lines, and I tripped.  So I don't know how I ended up getting the role.  
  • Vanessa:  That's why you were cast. (laughter)

Keke rehearsing her songKeke rehearsing her songCourtesy of FOX

Q: Were any of you in a production of "Grease" before?  And if so, who did you play?

  • Kether: I played Frenchy in eighth grade.
  • Julianne: I put the production on in my basement when I was, like, five years old.  I was Sandy, and, then, during the dance scene, I turned into Cha‑Cha, and, then, I went back to Sandy
  • Aaron: I've never done a production of "Grease."  This is my first one.
  • Carly Rae: I was Sandy in our high school production of it.  (Turning to Julianne) I could not walk in heels the way you do.  No way.

Kether as nerdy JanKether as nerdy JanCourtesy of FOX

Q: Carly, your voice is original. How did finding that voice help focus your musical career?

  • Carly Rae: Oh, actually, I can remember being young, in the car, driving with my mother, and we were listening to Bob Dylan, and I asked my mother what it would take for me to become famous as a singer.  And she told me, "Just have a weird voice."  And I remember taking that to heart and not trying to sound like anybody other than how I naturally sounded.
  • Keke:  I love it.  That touched my heart.

Carly Rae as FrenchyCarly Rae as FrenchyCourtesy of FOX

Q: Any of you, are there any particular moments, like hard notes, difficult dance steps, that will make you do an internal happy dance when you get through it on live night?

  • Carlos: Ooh, yeah. Basically, on the Warner Bros. lot, the show takes place in three locations and we have to get to those locations in those three hours.  So we are going from one stage to another.  And at the very end of the show, the entire cast, all of the ensemble, all of the dancers, we all get on these golf carts and go to the back lot, and we have this huge carnival scene, and it's crazy. So we are singing, dancing and traveling. I think it's going to be really special if we can pull it off.

Q: Julianne, as a choreographer yourself, are you the go‑to person if someone is not sure about a step? 

  • Julianne: Well, (our choreographer) Zach is amazing.  And I would never ever go in there and try and do anything.  But if there are times when we're just sitting around, I'm like, "Hey, guys, do you need help with that little bit?  I can walk you through it if you want."  
  • Kether:  You taught me how to twirl. 
  • Carly Rae: She won't say it, but absolutely.  She's amazing.
  • Keke: I'm usually into the hip‑hop, so she definitely comes in and helps me because I'm like, "Girl, how do you do this box step?  It's not my thing."

Aaron and Julianne rehearse a danceAaron and Julianne rehearse a danceCourtesy of FOX

Q: Julianne, you got to spend some time with Olivia Newton‑John.  So what was that talk like about you doing this and did she offer advice or what happened?

  • Julianne: I met Olivia a couple of  times.  And she was a guest judge on "Dancing with the Stars" back in November.  And when I found that out, I actually screamed so loud because I was so excited.  And when I met her, I didn't even say anything to her first.  She just said, "I hear you're playing Sandy.  Oh, my goodness.  Congratulations.  You're just perfect for it."  And I almost started crying because I was like, "This is my, like, hero.  This is my 5‑year‑old dream."  So I hope I make her proud. I can discover Sandy for myself and still honor what Olivia did.  And yeah, I hope that she's watching, and John and everybody. 

Julianne as tame SandyJulianne as tame SandyCourtesy of FOX

Q: Aaron, have you heard from Travolta? 

  • Aaron: I've not heard from John directly, but I've met him before, and I'm sure he's going to be a huge supporter of this. 

Danny (Aaron) and the guys talk drag racingDanny (Aaron) and the guys talk drag racingCourtesy of FOX

Q: Carly, playing Frenchy, your hair looks different than what's on the screen and in the gallery shots.  Did you keep changing it up?

  • Carly Rae:  Oh, one the joys of playing this character is she gets to rock many a do, from red to pink to yellow and beyond.  And I think part of learning about this character is that she is just not so skilled in beauty school. She tries and tries again.
  • Jordan: She drops out, by the way.
  • Carly Rae: Hey, I don't look at it as dropping out.

Carly Rae as FrenchyCarly Rae as FrenchyCourtesy of FOX

Q: Vanessa, can you talk about your take on Rizzo, and when was the first time you saw "Grease"?

  • Vanessa: I honestly can't remember the first time I saw "Grease."  I feel like "Grease" has just always been a part of my life.  It's always been on in my house.  I can't remember my life before "Grease" almost. But yeah, Rizzo is a really awesome character.  I have really grown to love her.  She's a badass.  She has a really tough shell, but inside she's got a tender heart, but she's not going to let anyone see it unless she wants them to come in.  But it's a lot of fun.  The costumes I get to wear, the silhouettes from the '50s, like the pencil skirt and the little pixie cut, it just makes you exude this energy that I feel like women these days don't necessarily have.  So it's very empowering, and it's just a lot of fun.

Julianne, Keke, Vanessa, Kether, Carly Rae rehearseJulianne, Keke, Vanessa, Kether, Carly Rae rehearseCourtesy of FOX

Q: Boyz II Men sing the “Grease” title song. Aaron, that was a big deal for you?

  • Aaron: Listen, the first CD that I ever bought with my own money, was their "Cooleyhighharmony."  And I used to take my 11‑year‑old self and try to sound like them every day in my room.  So I'm going to try to play it cool for the first five minutes when they're there, but all bets are off after that.
  • Keke: You give that soulful vibe singing "Sandy."  You know I like it when you sing that.
  • Aaron: You know what?  Thanks, Keke.

Cast is ready for a dance rehearsalCast is ready for a dance rehearsalCourtesy of FOX

Watch “Grease: Live” on the FOX TV this Sunday January 31st. Check your local market for time and channel.

The cast of Grease: LiveThe cast of Grease: LiveCourtesy of FOX

GREASE: LIVE | Teasers From The Cast

 

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